Report – By PMC news desk
The killing and abduction of journalists in Indonesian-occupied West Papua has been highlighted in a special new report on Pacific media freedom over the past year by Pacific Journalism Review.
“By far the most serious case of media freedom violations in the Pacific is in West Papua—far from international scrutiny,” says the journal in an editorial.
The 39-page report on the state of media freedom in the Pacific in 2011 notes that in August, in particular, “sustained repression has also hit the news media and journalists”.
At least two journalists have been killed in West Papua, five abducted and 18 assaulted in the past year.
West Papua has replaced Fiji as the most urgent media freedom issue in the region, says the journal. The report has been published just as regional protests have been voiced over the brutal suppression of a strike at the giant Freeport copper mine in the past week in which at least one person was reported shot dead.
Ten West Papuan activists were arrested by Indonesian authorities in Jayapura last week for being in possession of material that featured the banned West Papuan Morning Star flag of independence.
Poengky Indarti, executive director of the Indonesian human rights monitor Imparsial, said recently: “Freedoms of expression, association and assembly are routinely violated in Papua, which seriously fuels tensions. Besides, gross human rights abuses, such as acts of torture, remain unaccounted for.”
This free media research report, compiled by Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Alex Perrottet and Pacific Media Centre director Dr David Robie with a team of contributors, including West Papua Media editor Nick Chesterfield, is the most comprehensive and robust media freedom dossier on the region published in recent years.
“The state of Pacific media freedom is fragile in the wake of serious setbacks, notably in Fiji, with sustained pressure from a military backed regime, and in Vanuatu, where blatant intimidation has continued with near impunity,” says the report.
“Apart from Fiji, which has a systemic and targeted regime of censorship, most other countries are attempting to free themselves from stifling restrictions on the press.
“Coupled with governments that are sluggish to introduce freedom of the information legislation and ensure region-wide constitutional rights to free speech are protected, there are limited media councils and advocacy bodies with few resources to effectively lobby their governments.
“Those that do, run the risk of inviting backlashes by government figures who have a poor appreciation of the role of independent media.”
The media freedom report records several Pacific case studies and also includes Australia and New Zealand in the wake of the Murdoch news phone-hacking furore in Britain.
In New Zealand, another major threat to media freedom has been the consolidation of contemporary transnational corporate ownership patterns.
Researchers Merja Myllylahti and Dr Wayne Hope demonstrate in another special report on global capital and media communication ownership that NZ media corporations treat news as a commodity and news organisations as revenue generators.
This is the third in a series of media ownership papers published in PJR and initiated by Bill Rosenberg’s mapping of media ownership (2007, 2009). This ongoing project has now been adopted by AUT University.
The report authors point to the closure of the 20-year-old influential business and politics newspaper The Independent and the phasing out of the 130-year-old cooperative news agency New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) as key symptoms of the malaise: ‘Consequently, public media space is shrinking as the practice of journalism declines.’
This edition of PJR is themed on “Media, cultural diversity and community”, and includes articles on Australia’s Reporting Diversity Project, the Yumi Piksa community television project in Papua New Guinea, a study of the use of te reo Māori by Fairfax-owned Suburban Newspapers in New Zealand by the Te Rōpu Whariki research team, reporting of Islam in Australia, the Australian country press, and the development of a cross-cultural communications degree in Oman by a New Zealand university.
Book reviews include investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s Other People’s Wars: New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror.
This edition, published in partnership with the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney is being published on October 20.
Edition editors were Professor Wendy Bacon, Dr Catriona Bonfiglioli and Associate Professor David Robie.
West Papua new Pacific media black spot – Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat
West Papua: Journalists beware – Radio NZ International